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Oil, ag parry accusations they use too much water during drought | News – Bakersfield, California

Bakersfield, California 2021-12-04 20:00:00 –

The second year of the extraordinary drought has revived the debate over whether oil and agriculture, the two pillars of Khan’s economy, are using more than a fair share of the state’s precious water supply.

A coalition of environmental groups called on Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday to take administrative steps to “balance state water use and access” by curbing large-scale polluted corporate interests. I sent that.

Representatives of the oil and agriculture industry opposed the coalition’s allegations, in some cases disputing their estimates of net consumption and arguing that they could not explain the benefits of the products they offered.

“I think we’re interested in finding something like a drought scapegoat during the drought season,” said Richard Waycot, CEO of the California Almond Commission. “Of course, the drought was caused by Mother Nature more than anyone else in California.”

The basic claims from each side have been around for years. What’s new is their urgency as states make difficult decisions about how to extend California’s tight water supply.

Concerned about the low reservoir levels and small snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains this season, state officials announced on Wednesday the smallest initial allocation ever from a state water project: zero percent of demand except for health and safety benefits. ..

Nearly four dozen groups that signed last week’s letter, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, and Fossil Free California, pressure the governor to exercise authority to set up new oil and gas operations and factory farms. I put it on.

The coalition also called on him to declare growth in the non-beneficial use of groundwater in almonds and alfalfa. It demanded that he stop all new planting of those crops, “while providing support to help small growers move to more sustainable and less thirsty crops.” bottom.

The group also called for greater transparency in water transactions and compulsory water conservation measures across the state, especially changes related to industries other than oil and agriculture, such as water bottlers.

“Taking these measures now will help protect the environment and water of all people in our state and will avoid much more severe measures as the drought continues,” the letter said. rice field. “Now is the time for bold leadership.”

According to the Food & Water Watch, about 3 trillion gallons of water are used annually for irrigation of almonds and alfalfa. Large dairy products use more than 142 million gallons per day, and oil and gas operators are estimated to have consumed 3 billion gallons of freshwater since 2018.

Spokespersons in the oil and agriculture industry have different views on the use of water.

Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Oil Association, said in an email that the state’s oil industry produced more than 25 billion gallons of oil during a period highlighted by Food & Water Watch. All the water was consumed by the Californians, he wrote.

Another industry group, the Western States Petroleum Association, said California’s oil and gas producers are net water suppliers. They say they purify billions of gallons of production water (the liquid that oils from the ground) annually for use in agriculture.

“If enhanced oil recovery and hydraulic fracturing stop today, the drought will make the state worse,” WSPA said in an August announcement.

The Kern County and State Farm Departments did not respond to requests for comment. However, people familiar with certain products have called out to protect the industry.

Weicot of the Almond Commission said the use of ag’s water is summarized in “an existential problem, if any, in terms of feeding humans.”

He argued that more than 90% of the nuts grown in the state are produced on less than 1,000 acres of family-owned farms, arguing that almond growers are in the company’s interests.

In addition, the corn that most consumers see accounts for only about one-third of what almond orchards produce, Waycott said. Shells and shells have other uses, such as feed for livestock that produce milk and cheese.

At a more basic level, he said, almond orchards absorb carbon and release oxygen, offsetting the net carbon dioxide emissions from urban areas. He added that about 90% of the water that almond trees use to transport nutrients escapes through the leaves into the atmosphere.

He estimates that almond producers in California will reduce water consumption by a third between 2000 and 2020, and the industry’s goal is to reduce it by another 20% by 2025. I pointed out.

“What is overlooked is the ongoing efforts that agriculture makes to reduce water consumption and make it more environmentally sustainable,” said Weikot.

Daniel H. Putnam, an agronomist and feed specialist at the University of California, Davis, claims that criticisms of alfalfa growers over water use overlook many important factors for resilience and food production. bottom.

He referred to a presentation he compiled with other researchers earlier this year, and testing water use for certain crops such as almonds and alfalfa needs to be balanced with productivity, economic benefits and food production considerations. Said there is.

According to the presentation, alfalfa is a relatively high water user, but offers great flexibility during times of variable water availability. We have determined that the deep roots of alfalfa utilize residual water, allow multiple harvests per year, withstand summer dryness and re-grow when re-watered.

In addition, the presentation states that it withstands high salt content and can be flooded in winter to recharge the aquifer.

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